Every Tuesday, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home.
Today: Learn how to make this Italian classic the best it can be.
The caprese salad -- a Neapolitan classic, named after the island of Capri -- is loved the world over for its simplicity and freshness. It has even become a symbol of Italian cuisine thanks to its color palate, which mimics the Italian flag.
Dressed only in some extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, this is a dish that calls for good ingredients. Seek out proper balls of mozzarella, weighty and as juicy as the tomatoes themselves. Perfectly ripe, sweet, summer tomatoes are a must. Try something like a beefsteak tomato or costoluto, a large ribbed tomato said to be one of the oldest varieties around. Both make great salad tomatoes, as do oblong plum tomatoes like Roma or San Marzano. Go for a very good extra-virgin olive oil, one that is fresh and zingy and hasn't been hanging around the pantry for too long.
This is barely a recipe, but there are a few tricks that you can use to make this simple salad stand out:
- If you have time, try “marinating” the tomato slices in the olive oil and a good pinch of salt an hour or so before serving. The salt draws the water out of the tomatoes, producing a delicious juice. Combine it with the olive oil in a small jar and shake it to make your salad dressing.
- Use buffalo mozzarella. A good ball of fresh mozzarella weeps a milky liquid when cut, which will then pool in the bottom of the dish, seeping into the dressing. You'll want a few slices of fresh, crusty bread to mop it all up.
- Don't be shy with the olive oil. Even if you think you have used enough, always add an extra splash right before serving.
Serves 4 as antipasto
Photos by Emiko Davies